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Gin Trivia

8 Surprising Things You May Not Know About Gin

Gin is one of the most consumed spirits worldwide. From Spain to Australia, it’s rare to see a cocktail bar or home bar cart without gin. Usually enjoyed as part of cocktails, the right gin is quite pleasant on its own. In our years spent researching this historic spirit, we have learned a thing or two, and we’d like to share eight surprising things you probably didn’t know about gin.

GIN IS MORE THAN JUST JUNIPER FLAVOR

Juniper must be at the core of every gin before you can call it gin, and the law in many parts of the world mandates just that. The US Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau says, “It shall derive its main characteristic flavor from juniper berries.” Distillers are a playful lot, and over the years, they have played with and at times flaunted that definition, leading to imaginatively delicious outcomes – adding bits and pieces of botanicals, spices, and even florals to achieve a more complex and unique flavor profile. Anything from citrus peels to angelica root, to lavender – these combinations of ingredients differentiate each gin from the other.

For Paper Lantern Gin, a healthy dose of juniper berries sets the stage for our other botanicals to shine through. Bold and warm notes of Sichuan pepper lead the flavor, balanced with citrus notes from lemongrass and makhwaen. Ginger and galangal add an earthy spice to our gin, which complements the silky finish from our rice spirit made in-house at the distillery. We finish it off with just a sweet kiss of Longan berry honey.

THERE ARE MANY TYPES OF GIN

Let’s dive into the different types of gin. The most popular and prevalent style is called London Dry. As the name suggests, it is dry and not sweet. Contrary to its name, though, London Dry style gins do not have to be produced in London! There are many of these gins out there, so don’t be fooled by the name! Plymouth style gins, on the other hand, can only be made in Plymouth, England. It is similar to a London Dry, but mildly sweeter, less juniper and more earthy in flavor due to an abundance of root-based botanicals.

Meanwhile, Old Tom style gins are a sweeter and older style, also born out of London in a time gone by and now seeing a remarkable craft resurgence. Then there’s “Navy Strength” gin, with a higher ABV – 57%+ to be exact. The name comes from an era dominated by piracy, cross Atlantic exploration, and global naval trade, where gin voyaged on huge wooden cargo ships together with gunpowder and other valuables and perishables. At the time, there was no exact method for determining the strength of a spirit, so to test its proof, the merchants would combine the gin with a pinch of gunpowder, mixed it into a dram of spirit slurry, and then try to light it on fire. If the mixture flared up, the gin was officially high proof (>57% ABV) — Navy Strength. Measurement problems sorted.

Back in our modern times, contemporary gins are exploring new flavor combinations. While juniper is still very present, other characteristics such as spice, fruitiness, and floral notes are moving into the foreground. Paper Lantern Gin proudly falls into this category. Our bottle is a medley of Southeast Asian flavors, making us a contemporary Asian Gin.

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GIN IS BORN FROM VODKA (BUT THE APPLE FALLS FAR FROM THE TREE)

We mentioned earlier that we make our base spirit in-house. We use this base spirit to help extract the flavors from the herbs and spices we include in our gin. Most distilleries buy neutral grain spirits to use as the base spirit for their white spirits. If you were to take this neutral grain spirit (which is nearly pure ethanol) and water it down to about 40% alcohol by volume, you would have a bottle of vodka in your hands. As both vodka and gin follow the flexible requirement of needing to be of agricultural origin, they, therefore, can be practically made from anything fermentable. The process of bringing these spirits to life begins for each in nearly the same way. 

Paper Lantern Gin offers a unique grain-to-glass experience as we produce our base spirit from carefully selected Asian rice. This unique production methodology lends a remarkably smooth texture to our gin.

TONIC CAME FIRST

Add a tonic of your choice to your gin, and you have a refreshing cocktail. Which came first, though, the tonic or the gin? Looking back in time, we find that the beloved cocktail surprisingly began with the tonic. British soldiers stationed in India had to take quinine to treat and prevent malaria in these tropical regions. However, given quinine’s bitterness, they would often mix it with soda and sugar, in effect making tonic water of some sort. It was only later on that they started adding in the gin, conceivably to help further hide the strong flavor of the anti-malarial concoction. Over time, it’s popularity grew. This medicinal tipple was so vital during the British colonization that Winston Churchill once declared, “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”

GIN USED TO BE A SNACK

As morbid as it sounds, England’s public executions became a sort of entertainment in the 1700s. People would often flock to the gallows, ready to enjoy a show with hot gin and gingerbread in hand. Before movies, popcorn, and a soda-pop, there were live executions, hot gin, and gingerbread. We wouldn’t mind sipping on a gin cocktail next time we go to the movies ourselves! But to stay on the right side of the law, we’ll save that for our home movie nights. Cin Cin! 

HOW MANY TEARS IN A BOTTLE OF GIN?

The Aussie rock legend Paul Kelly in his 1989 song “Careless” once asked, “How many tears in a bottle of gin?”.  Believe it or not, someone took the time to determine the volume of each tear and, in turn, compute how many tears can a bottle of 750ml hold. A tear is approximately 0.0062 milliliters, which means an empty 750ml gin bottle can hold about 121,000 tears. Wow. You’re welcome.

THE COUNTRY THAT CONSUMES THE MOST GIN

Where do they drink the most gin? The first thought would be England, where the gin market first emerged. What about Spain, with their siestas? Maybe they get sleepy from all those G&Ts they are drinking? Wrong on both counts. Surprise! It turns out to be right here in Southeast Asia! It really is more fun in the Philippines! Around 43% of the world’s gin market comes from this country thanks to Ginebra San Miguel, which domestically produces their titular gin. A little background – gin was initially introduced to the Philippines through the Spanish colonial occupation extending from the 1500s to the 1800s. The Gin and Tonic is still a favorite cocktail in Spain (and the Philippines) to this day. Mabuhay! 

GIN IS AN IDEAL COCKTAIL SPIRIT

Gin is a very complex and versatile spirit, able to adapt to many flavor profiles, which makes it an ideal cocktail spirit. Gone are the days of only juniper gins. The world of gin is incredibly varied with so many flavor profiles to choose from – citrusy, floral, herbaceous, spicy, earthy, or fruity.  Next time you’re looking to make a cocktail, try one with gin. Start with a bottle of Paper Lantern Gin and try our different recipes from the website. And be sure to let us know how it goes! 

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